Ok, I was going to lurk like I usually do, but Gary C. calling me corporate goes too far. Gary, seems to me I've seen you in a coat and tie from time to time as well.
A few pieces of history--
1.I think the connection from Big Rapids to Ingram you're thinking of was through Prairie News. They were an alternative magazine distributor that came up around the time Big Rapids went down and were eventually acquired by Ingram as the core of their magazine distribution operation. I'm not aware that Prairie paid Big Rapids anything for any assets, but may have picked up some accounts when Rapids went down.
2.The underground connection to distribution is largely as mentioned, but there were other companies involved that sold undergrounds as well as Marvels and DCs, including Longhorn Books, for example. If I put my mind to it or sat down with John D., we could probably come up with a pretty good list of the Big Rapids subdistributors, most of whom carried both undergrounds and Marvels/DCs.
3.Big Rapids as a tough company is very accurate--it often operated a lot like a street gang. BRDC vs. Windy City was an interesting combination. I was a member of about an 8-man crew that staged an inventory repossession raid on Windy City at their Chicago warehouse. There was no violence, but it was a tense and potentially explosive situation.
4.I don't think BRDC ever took over Well News; it's my recollection that they were still around when we started Capital.
5.As far as anybody interviewing the Big Rapids guys--good luck. I think Kennedy and Kwant should be out by now but I don't think I'm going to look them up.
6.Going to the broader questions of the fate of the comics business--The pulp comic format is a prisoner of its content and distribution. Content that is impossible to comprehend without immersing oneself in the continuity is why books are up and periodicals are down in the comics business. Declining newsstand distribution is both a reflection of the decline of newsstand distribution in general and the total inappropriateness of most comic periodicals for the type of consumer reached by newsstand distribution. Bookstores, e-commerce booksellers (and a few specialty sites), and brick and mortar stores that carry a range of pop culture products beyond comics are the new growth engines for the comics business.
7.Watching Carol Kalish get deified after her death has been an interesting experience. She was one of the smartest people ever in this business, was devoted to the comic specialty market, and could be a warm and pleasant person, but she was also stone-cold tough. I just got a chill; I think she's listening.
Over-all a very interesting thread--nice to hear from some old friends. Jim H., thanks for letting me know it was here. Jim F., nice to hear from you with your great perspective. There's a million stories in the Naked City; I'm tempted to start writing mine down.